From the little we know of Mary Magdalene, we can see that she was a devoted disciple of Jesus Christ. What can we learn from her life that will help us in our own walk with Jesus?
We do not not have a record of how/when she and Jesus met, but it was sometime during Jesus’ early ministry. We do know that she was a woman in torment, harassed by seven demons. Jesus had compassion on her and cast out the demons. Both Mark and Luke mention this.
After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him, and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means. [Luke 8:1-3, NIV]
This may seem obvious, but in order to be a devoted disciple of Jesus we must meet Him. Going to church is not enough. Living a “good” life is not enough. Believing the right things is not enough. Nothing short of a living relationship with Jesus is enough.
Mary Magdalene had a dramatic encounter with Jesus. He healed her tormented life by casting out seven demons. Some people have this instantly life-changing encounter with Jesus - Paul on the road to Damascus is another such example. Sometimes those of us who have not had such a riveting deliverance from sin and oppression can feel inferior or even “not saved”. The fact is that Jesus deals with each of us as individuals. Those who experience an instant “lightening from the sky” moment are no better than those whose experience is quieter and more gradual. Samuel is an example of person who had a quiet daily influence of Jesus in his life and he became one of the greatest prophets/judges of the Old Testament. So no matter how or why we come to Jesus, we must come before we can be a devoted disciple! We must confess our sins to Him and accept Jesus as Lord and Saviour believing that God has raised Him from the dead.
They had followed Jesus from Galilee to care for his needs. Matt. 27:55, NIV
When Jesus left Galilee some women followed Him, of which, Mary Magdalene is specifically mentioned. After being delivered she did not simply return to her “normal” life. Her joy and gratitude made her invest her time in Jesus and His ministry. Jesus became the priority in her life. We can assume that, if she was married she had the blessing of her husband in this [Jesus would not have sanctioned family disunity] or, if she were single, she was willing to leave family and home to live “on the road.”
It cannot have been an easy life, but the investment of time and labour came from the devoted disciple’s heart of love. We sometimes forget that there are many practical parts of life that are not mentioned in the Gospels. Jesus and His disciples had to eat [He didn’t multiple bread every day!]. They needed shelter at night when travelling. And more. Mary and the other women were a part of the team that is not often seen but looked after the many practical needs.
How much time in our busy schedules are we willing to invest in Jesus? This is not to bring condemnation. Jesus knows the busy, often rushed, lives we live. He knows our hearts. Let us take time to consider our priorities. We must be careful not to equate “Christian” activity with true relationship. Pause and consider. How is your relationship with Jesus? Are you doing things out of trying to please God - which results in pressure, stress, frustration and condemnation - or allowing your actions to flow out of love knowing that you are loved and accepted no matter what you do or don’t do?
As mentioned above, Mary and the other women were willing to serve in practical but unnoticed ways. While we all appreciate recognition, a devoted disciple is not in for recognition. They are willing and content to serve where needed even if they are “unsung heroes”. There are many things that are needful and necessary behind the scenes in any ministry, but often only those in the public eye get the credit. Nevertheless, God sees. Nothing will go unrewarded in the end. Mary Magdalene was the first one to see the resurrected Christ and the other women saw Him as well before the main 12 disciples. We all have a place to serve and we need to be willing to serve there joyfully and not be jealous if someone else gets the credit.
Mary Magdalene was willing to invest her money into the ministry of Jesus. She saw a cause larger than herself, a Person Who was worth her all. She did not draw her purse strings closed. She was willing to do more than talk a good talk. She [and the other women] put their money as well as their time and lives at the disposal of Jesus. Sometimes we think if we tithe the other 90% belongs to us. Actually, it all belongs to God. We are just stewards. Mary recognized this. Her love was not limited. Jesus had her all…and that is what He wants from us.
Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. John 19:25
Some women watched the crucifixion at a distance - which is more than most of the men disciples did. From the accounts Mary probably started with them at a distance and then moved closer to be near Jesus in His time of greatest trial.
It is easy to be a Christian when it is popular or accepted. Mary remained a devoted disciple when things went bad. When the Man you’ve given your life for is hanging on a cross as a criminal, all your dreams are dashed and your heart is broken, that’s when your dedication is really proven. A lessor person would have walked away in disillusionment to try and rebuild their life. Not Mary. She was there. She wasn’t going anywhere.
How committed to Christ are we? Do we hold true when it costs us friends? Our job? A good grade at school? When our life is on the line? What about when atheists mock us about being old fashioned. prejudiced, ignorant or accuse God of being a “moral monster”? Do we stand by the cross or do we run and hide? When Christ is naked and shamed before the world, are we standing beside Him?
And after the crucifixion we do not find Mary [or the other women] hiding in fear of their lives like the twelve disciples. No, they were faithfully doing their best to honour Jesus even with their hopes dashed and lives in ruins. They didn’t stop. Fear did not hold them back. Disillusionment did not destroy them. They remained faithful. How many Christians have turned away from the Faith with much less motivation? Are we devoted disciples or fair weather friends? Mary Magdalene walked the path of commitment and we should not be ashamed to walk in her sandal prints.